“Shawn, all jokes aside. I need to be serious with you. It looks like you have lung cancer … blah blah blah . A garbled gook of words followed as I had that “ this is a bad dream right? “ thing going on in my head.

That is what I heard at my doctors office 6 years. I was in shock for 2 reasons. One I had just lost my mother to cancer less than 2 years prior and two I have never smoked a cigarette in my life. Ok I may have puffed and then coughed, never inhaled.

All I could think was “Wow I am going to die at 40 and I have never done anything, never gotten married, had kids, left the county even run a marathon“

Flash forward a few months later as I am preparing for my first cancer treatment using Photodynamic Therapy in which I know that side effect will be light sensitivity for at least the next month, I binge on YouTube videos about “over coming diseases“ and I came across the John Blaise Story. Like many people I was move and inspired by the story to tears and told myself “after I do a marathon I want to do Ironman one day … as soon I learn to swim“

6 months later I get the all clear from the doctors and I looked up “hardest event to do for lungs“ and I find a link about stair climbing races. 2 months later I fly to Chicago to do the Sears Tower Climb 103 storeys just to prove to myself that I can.

3 months later I enter my first half marathon to keep my promise to myself to run a full marathon one day. This was meant to be “practice“ for running the full the following next year.

Rocking my LIVESTRONG shirt I finished the race in about 2.5 hours and was ready to die !!! On my walk back to my apartment I spotted 3 “plump“ ladies walking along the course. I shouted, “You’re almost there!!“ I hated when people kept telling me that just an hour ago …lol. One lady said “Come with us please …“ So I did and walked with them the last mile. It felt so good to do that even though my body was killing me.

2 days later I get a call from Colleen, the Team Livestrong Manager at the time. She said she was following up on a request I sent in about participating in a race for Livestrong. After a few minutes I realized she was talking about the Boston Marathon!!!

The one that was less than 3 months away.! I told her thanks but no thanks. I can barely walk now and there is now way I could train for that and raise money while working a full time job. “Did you see my time? I suck !!“ She said ok but think about it but her boss may call me to follow up.

5 minutes later I see the same Austin Texas number on my phone and I answer

“Shawn ?“
“This is Lance. Look you are 40 year old back of the pack runner with a 12-minute per mile pace. You would never qualify for this race. Do you hate cancer?”
“Are you the same Shawn Parker that has sub 20 minutes time at Sears tower?“
“Do you want to tell your kids one day that your dad ran The Boston Marathon?“
“Good we will see you in Boston, here’s Colleen again“

Flash forward 4 half marathons, 2 full marathons, 5 tower climbs, 2 Rides for Roses later, several duathlons and a few failed triathlon attempts later I find myself in Abu Dhabi.

I have a bad habit of   “go big or go home“ that sometimes I way over reach in excitement. I had gone to both Escape from Alcatraz and St. Anthony’s Triathlon to be overwhelmed by the water conditions. Looking back I had no business at either race but I was meant to be there for other reasons.

Shawn and maccaI have had about 3 months of weekly swim lessons but the YouTube Video of the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon had me mesmerized at the thought of traveling to an exotic location and riding my bike on a F1 track.

I am in the lobby of the hotel where packet pick up is and thinking, I should change from doing the short course (1500m swim) to the sprint (500m ) but that would mean not riding the Yas Marina F1 course on my bike. I knew I could make 500m swimming even if I had to stop a few times but 1500m all of a sudden seemed very daunting.

Then, I see Chris McCormack eating breakfast with some people. I can’t believe it. I always felt his story about losing his mom to cancer and mine mirrored each other in some ways. Every race I have ever done since my diagnosis always was fueled by the fact she told me “when it come down to the end, there is only going to be one person in that box with you. Do everything you want to do now Shawn“

I walk over and introduce myself and Chris is just as polite as on TV. He asks me if I am ready and I tell him my concerns about the swim. He says, “Look mate, you paid your money, you’re already all the way here from America. Use the course and everything on it. If you have to stop 20 times, stop 20 times that’s what those guys are there for. Rest when you need to and finish strong there’s a desert waiting for you after that“ I was pumped and did not change my registration.

Next day I saw Omar Nour who came over and gave me a hug, shook hands with Macca and also had Norman Stadler tell me I had my wet suit on backwards – DUH!!!

I started my race nervous but with a plan. I stopped 11 times too because of getting goggles knocked off, being pulled under by even weaker swimmers or needing to rest.

But when I made it to shore I felt like I had already won. I went on to finish the whole course including running in 108 F weather.

I found out about MaccaX shortly after my return and followed along on the Website and Facebook Group.

This is one of the best things that has happened. I remember I tried to quietly sign up for a race that I was sure no one would know me so I could try some new things out. But no, out of the darkness that is 5:30 am I see the “famous foul-mouthed“ Evelyn Salama. I am like “ Oh Crap! She is going to see me too terrible here today and make me feel bad about it “

I can tell you it was nothing like that at all. I was having a bad race but she came back after finishing her race and ran with me during the run portion of the race. Friendship sealed forever at that point. Plus I saved her marriage not letting her forget her bike there J

Sean Abudhabi runBut the whole MaccaX crew is like then in real life and virtually via the internet.
I felt like when I returned to Abu Dhabi last year I was not alone because Bo Larsen and crew were there.  The same with Miami Man and Challenge AC races people I know from forums becoming instant friends via MaccaX. And late night drinking 🙂

Shawn boulderEven in my darkest Triathlon hour last year getting a DNF at IM Boulder I really felt the support from the group. And now as luck would have it, 2 members have moved to Boulder and offered their home for me to stay a few days early so I can acclimatize and be there at the finish.

I love this group.